independent

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Asseel begins cannabis oil treatment

4-year-old begins cannabis oil treatment after his father travels to Spain to purchase the drug

Asseel Osman
Asseel Osman

David Looby

New Ross boy Asseel Osman began his cannabis oil treatment on Friday after his father travelled to Spain to source the drug for him.

Four-year-old Asseel's story was highlighted on RTE News on Wednesday as his family continue their campaign for a licence for cannabis oil for their child who suffers from cerebral palsy and has daily epileptic seizures which can be as frequent as every seven minutes.

In the news report his mother Zara sobbed as she held Asseel's hand. She said: 'Every three hours he wakes up crying.'

Lying in his green and blue bed at his Irishtown Heights home, Asseel is one of the only children in Ireland to be completely bed bound as he is unable to sit upright.

His heartbroken father Mahad was the first person in the country to illegally import the drug from Germany in 2015, having been told by a consultant that nothing more could be done for his son, who was two at the time, here.

Mahad was left with no choice but to travel to Spain last Monday to buy vials of the cannabis based drug to help stop his son's incessant pain. He travelled on his own, while Asseel was cared for by his mother Zara.

People Before Profit's Susan Breen said Hamad bought the oil in Spain where it is much cheaper to acquire illegally than in Germany, where he previously sourced it and where the drugs are legal, as is the case in Holland where a three month presciption costs €6,000. Susan said because of Asseel's brain damage - as well as the epilepsy - he needs everything in his body to relax.

Susan said: 'The consultant is also starting Asseel on the lowest strength then gradually working up under observation, so once he is using the higher percentage THC it will be far more expensive. There has been renewed calls for a new licensing system for people wishing to get medicinal cannabis as they are so restrictive.'

Mahad and Zara appealed through this newspaper to Minister for Health Simon Harris last month to allow them to use cannabis oil to relieve his pain. Mahad travelled to see Asseel's consultant, Dr David Webb in Dublin the day with a copy of his local newspaper and spoke of his frustrations with the doctor.

Asseel had an EEG and Mahad and Zara had been waiting months for the results, adding to their frustration.

Expressing concern that the only reason his seriously ill son was being deprived cannabis oil was due to the cost which can run into the tens of thousands of euros over time, Mahad said Dr Webb furnished him with a letter saying that he doesn't have any other solution to Asseel's medical problems. Mahad said hearing that he can do a test trial using the oil on his son over three months has opened the doors for the possibility of being able to access the oil on an ongoing basis.

Campaigners say the licensing system for cannabis oil, which contains THC unlike cannabidiol which can be used and is widely available in Ireland, is too restrictive here.

People like Cork mother Vera Twomey have to travel to Holland four times a year to get the medical cannabis and there is no guarantee they will be reimbursed by the department.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said cannabis can be prescribed for patients and he wants to overhaul the system. Zara and Mahad fear that without cannabis oil treatment their son's body will deteriorate to the extent he will never have any comfort or quality of life.

Having developed cerebral palsy and epilepsy due to complications during his birth in Wexford General Hospital on March 11, 2014, Asseel came under the care of neurology specialist Dr Brian Lynch in Temple Street Children's Hospital from the tender age of five months.

He continues to suffer every hour of every day with spasms and the only treatment that has lessened his pain has been the cannabis oil his father sourced for him in 2015 in Germany.

Asseel's physiotherapist and occupational therapist have written to the minister describing how much improved Asseel was when he was being given cannabis oil.

Mahad said: `Without cannabis oil Asseel cannot use a wheelchair as his body is in spasm. This also causes him to twist uncomfortably when lying down, damaging his spine and limbs. He is confined to bed 24 hours a day and has to be drip fed. This is no life for Asseel, and it is devastating for us to witness his constant distress with no means of helping him.'

The trauma of seeing his brother in agony was too much for Asseel's younger brother who now lives mostly with extended family. Zara and Mahad hope that Asseel can once again avail of physiotherapy, a dietitian or occupational therapy when he starts taking the oil again.

A Facebook page called `Hope For Asseel' has been set up. The banner image states: 'You can't have healthcare without THC'.

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